I am sure you have heard this by now. The pandemic will make us one of three things, a chunk, a hunk, or a drunk. Whenever I share this, I usually get a chuckle. But let’s be honest, the last of the three is not funny. In fact, it is downright heartbreaking. Why? In too many cases, it is true.
This is something I know about some of you reading this. You have a loved one that feels like they are on a ferris wheel that never ends. At times, they experience great elation…as if they are soaring above the world. Free from all its loneliness and pain. But in the end, they always crash down to earth. And just when they think the “ride” is over, it begins again…with that next drink, that next hit, or that next pill. Maybe before the pandemic, they kept it under control or at least it seemed so, but now their life has become a full-blown circus. And the truth of the matter, they might have dragged you along with them.
You might think, what does a pastor know about addiction? Unfortunately, a lot. Especially this pastor. Some families pass along a cleft chin or dimples, but ours breeds alcoholism. I was robbed of a close relationship with my grandparents, whom I deeply loved, because they simply couldn’t give up the drink. Sadly for our entire family, they were never able to find the “exit” from this endless wheel. And we all paid the price.
I don’t have the space to even begin to address this topic adequately. Instead, I will just share (and please excuse the mixing of metaphors) a few “rules of the road” when it comes to loving someone struggling with addiction. This is particularly pertinent if you are a Jesus follower—but in all honesty, it applies to all of us. We all need grace, but the addict even more. The last thing the addict needs is condemnation. They already feel terrible about themselves (which in part keeps them chained to the “wheel”); the last thing they need for us to do is to make them feel worse. But this doesn’t mean that we filter the truth. As my uncle, a recovering alcoholic himself, told me, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” In short, don’t hide the ugliness of their destructive behavior. By both our words and our actions, be very clear what it is doing to you, but even more importantly, what it is doing to them. In reality, they know it. Don’t badger. Don’t harangue. Don’t harass. Lovingly say it, and let it be. And then the hardest part of all, love them, but love them tough. This means don’t bail them out of jail. Don’t lie to their boss to save their job. Don’t pay their back rent to prevent their eviction. This momentary pain we spare them only paves the way for a lifetime of it. Most addicts need to hit the very bottom before they are ready to take the hard step of asking for help to find a way out.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in John 8. A woman is caught red-handed in the act of adultery. We are not told if this is a pattern for her or not. Maybe she is a “serial” adulterer. I personally don’t think the people would take the radical step to stone her to death if it is her first offense. Regardless, the crowd is ready to execute judgment. Until Jesus in a masterful economy of words declares, “He without sin, cast the first stone.” His statement is like throwing tear gas into a mob. They disperse, leaving only the woman. Jesus doesn’t say “Oh, honey, it’s okay. Your husband never affirms your babka, “likes” your Facebook posts or compliments your hair, what did he expect?” No, he speaks the truth. He says what he means, and he means what he says, but he doesn’t say it mean.
By the time this is out, many of us will have gone to the Carolina Classic Fair. We will have braved the Ferris wheel, loving flying into the sky and likely loving less plunging down to earth. But for our loved ones, this is their daily experience. They are on this nightmarish ride called addiction, one seemingly without an exit. But by our honesty, and loving them toughly, we can point them towards freedom and even walk along their side.
For more resources and a sermon to share with those who have loved ones struggling with addiction, go to the following link. https://newdaylewisville.org/Sermons.html Sept. 19th. Starts around the 15-minute mark.